A few years ago, I was re-reading the webcomic Namesake, a story I had fallen out of reading as life had gotten in the way. As I was reading,one of the pages was a promotional picture for the creator’s kickstarter for a book. Interested in the outcome (since this was taking place in 2016, two years after the kickstarter began), I followed the link, and after finding out what it focused on, immediately went to find where I could buy it. This book was Valor.
Valor Vol. 1 was published in 2015 by Isabelle Melancon and Megan Lavey-Heaton and is a collection of comics and a few written works created by the authors as well as other webcomic creators such as Elena Barbarich and Ash Barnes (Sister Claire), Kadi Fedoruk (Blindsprings), and Michelle Krivanek (Alice and the Nightmare). The book itself is an anthology of different fairytales folk tales from around the world, as well as some original stories, told in different ways and incorporating minorities such as people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and the disabled. All comics beautifully done, here are four examples of some stories that have been portrayed differently in this work:
“Little Fish” by Emily Hann is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid.” In this version is set in South Asia and instead of the Little Mermaid not being able to speak to anyone, she is taught to communicate through sign language instead. By doing this, Hann gives a voice to a character most are use to, and expect to be, voiceless. To do this, Hann uses both speech bubbles when the sentences get to long, but uses mainly short sentences combined with the illustrated signs for those words. It is only ever in the illustrated sign language that the reader hears the Little Mermaid speak. For the main part of the story Hann follows the original tale, from the fact that walking and dancing hurts the Little Mermaid’s feet to how the Prince marries another. Unlike the original story though, the Mermaid does not die a sad death as result of the Prince not loving her back, but instead survives because of the love from the boy who taught her to speak, thereby (in my opinion) making a better and happier ending than the original.
“Bride of the Rose Beast,” written and drawn by Michelle Krivanek, is a retelling of a Norwegian Folktale called “Lindworm Prince.” It is about a queen who cannot have children, but gets help from an old witch who tells her to eat one of two roses, but not both. The queen eats both and later gives birth to a baby and a Lindworm (a type of dragon that resembles a snake), and the parents cast out the creature. Years later when the prince is trying to find a bride, the Lindworm comes to him and tells him that before the Prince can marry, the Lindworm needs a bride. Every girl they send the Lindworm and good enough, so he eats them, till they send a shepherd’s daughter. Before meeting him, the same old witch comes to the girl and tells her to go to him wearing every dress she owns, and every time he asks her to take off a dress, she asks him to do the same. His last skin is actually his human skin, and the two marry. There are several differences in the comic version and the original version. In Krivanek’s version, the roses determined the gender of the baby, with the Lindworm being born a girl. The stripping of dresses is still the same, but in the comic version, the girl must cover whips in lye and beat the Lindworm and cover it with milk (this is a combination of some other versions of the story). They both go to sleep instead of the change instantly happening, and wake up with the Princess, both marrying after.
“Crane Wife” by Little Foolery is combination of two Japanese folklore, “Crane’s Return of a Favor” and “Crane Wife,” as well as their own divergence from the original stories. Both original stories begin a similar way: a woman is found in the snow, possibly injured depending on the version, and is helped either by an elderly couple (Crane’s Return of a Favor) or a young man (Crane Wife). She makes and gives weaved silk as thanks for the help, and ends up staying with the people until it is found out she is a crane who has been plucking her own feathers to weave the silk. After it is revealed, she flies away in her crane form. The comic “Crane Wife” follows the tales but diverges a bit. Unlike the other comics in the book, “Crane Wife” only allows the reader so much knowledge as is being told to the main character, a woman called in to help the family figure out a way to get the Crane woman to leave. The reader must figure out given the limited knowledge what the real story was, based on the spoken words by the characters and the limited and vague imagery. Because of this, the story becomes one of the best of the books, separating itself from normal story telling conventions.
“Vasilisa” by Kadi Fedoruk is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful.” This is one of the few comics in Valor that does not change much, if anything, about the original story. In the original tale, Vasilisa’s mother dies when she is very young, but gives her a wooden doll to watch over her, and tells Vasilisa if she ever needs help to feed the doll. Her father then marries another woman who has two daughters, and all are mean to Vasilisa, making her do all the work in the house. One day her stepmother tells Vasilisa that the fire has gone out for their candles and that she needs to go bring back some fire from Baba Yaga (a famous Eastern European witch who is in many stories from that region). Before leaving, Vasilisa feeds her doll, which begins to talk to her and helps her on her journey, helping her complete Baba Yaga’s requests. Baba Yaga gave Vasilisa the fire she needed and forced her to leave upon finding out she was “blessed” by her mother, not wanting to be involved with any form of blessing. Upon returning to the house and giving her stepmothers and sisters the fire, the three women were burned alive while Vasilisa survived. As stated before, the comic version of this tale rarely diverges from the original, the only difference being that the fire in the comic was her mother’s spirit, and instead of the original ending where Vasilisa ends up marrying the Czar, the comic is more open ended with what happens to her, only showing her leaving the house to start a new life.
Filled with 19 beautifully done stories, Valor Vol 1 is a fun and interesting read of various art styles and stories from around the world. The creators in this book tell stories everyone knows in different ways, as well as introducing readers to new stories they may never have heard of. Fairly cheap for all that is inside, the ebook is $5 and the softcover $25 (and a lot of the comics are online for free on their respective artist’s websites so if you don’t wanna pay you can always do that), I would 100% recommend getting this book if you enjoy fairy tales and lore, or even if you are just looking for a fun read. If you are interested in even more Valor, check out the page for their recently funded kickstarter for Valor Vol 2: Wands.